Where does time go? Monica Lewinsky engaged in her affair with ex-President Bill Clinton 17 years ago. Just 22 in 1995 when the relationship began, she is now 40 years old and is telling her side of the sordid mess in Vanity Fair, including the humiliation she felt when the affair was revealed and her belief that the Clinton administration used her as a convenient “scapegoat.” The timing of the published details could not be more aggravating for President Clinton’s wife, Hillary Clinton, who is widely thought to be preparing for her own run at the White House, especially given that Republicans have already hinted that they are willing to bring up the scandal when campaigning against her. For her part, Lewinsky claims that she is coming forward in order to become a spokesperson to raise awareness of and advocate on behalf of those who are victimized, humiliated and harassed online. Lewinsky states in the piece that she feels as though she was the first-ever victim of this type of Internet bullying.
Her inspiration for breaking her silence and stepping forward after so many years was the case of Tyler Clementi, 18, the Rutgers University student who killed himself on Sept. 22, 2010, by jumping from the George Washington Bridge. Clementi’s roommate, Dharun Ravi, along with hallmate, Molly Wei, used Ravi’s webcam to watch Clementi kiss another man in what he thought was a private room. On Sept. 21, Ravi invited his friends and Twitter followers to watch on his webcam a second encounter between Clementi and his friend. Although the second viewing never happened, Clementi’s humiliation due to the bullying he received because of his homosexuality was too great for him to bear.
According to Lewinsky, not just the President’s administration, but both Washington Democrats and Republicans, not to mention the news media and the entire staff of the special prosecutor, embarked on an effort to label her as a conniving temptress in a certain way, even though the affair with Bill Clinton was consensual. Lewinsky says that the powers-that-be were able to effectively brand her as a home-wrecking seductress throughout the U.S. due to the power each organization wielded.
Both participants may have been equal partners in the affair, but former intern Lewinsky states that her “boss took advantage of (her).” Although she does not feel as though she was pressured or forced to engage in sexual relations with the President, she feels as though he did “abuse” her by making her the scapegoat in an effort to retain his powerful office. She confesses that she felt “suicidal” when she was embroiled in the scandal.
Bill Clinton was eventually impeached by the House in 1998 when his lies about the affair were uncovered. He was acquitted by the Senate and retained his office.
Speaking out now, Lewinsky says that she is “deeply” regretful for the affair and dismisses persistent rumors that she was paid to keep silent for all of these years. She describes her inability to land a job in her chosen field of communications, including fruitless interviews after which she was not hired and given no reason for the denial other than being told that she was not “quite right” for the job. Other companies attempted to take advantage of her notoriety by offering her jobs solely to be mentioned in the media. Lewinsky is prepared for any backlash that might occur due to her stepping out of the shadows and considers it her duty to help others who feel victimized or bullied online.
By Jennifer Pfalz